Posted on February 10, 2015 | genkijacs

Alrighty! Here we go, your go-to expression for this week! Did you know Japanese also has wordplay? The Japanese love it and call it 言葉遊び (ことばあそび - "kotoba asobi").

Here are a few examples of Japanese words and phrases that, when said out loud, sound like English:

ハマチ : hamachi (Japanese meaning: Yellowtail sushi) – Sounds like: "How much?"
いつ相撲終わる? : itsu sumo owaru? (Japanese meaning: When does the Sumo end?) – Sounds like: "It’s a small world."
ほった芋いじんな : Hotta imo ijinna (Japanese meaning: Leave those potatoes alone) – Sounds like: "What time is it now?"

In Japanese, numbers' pronunciation can also sometimes be adapted to form words. Like...

37564 – みなごろし : Massacre (In this example, 3 - usually pronounced "san" - is pronounced "mi" (as it is in words such as 3日間 - "mikkakan" or "three days". 7 - "nana" - gets shortened to "na". And so on...)


18782 - いやなやつ : Unpleasant guy (above?) Time to use sneaky number codes around mean guys.


4649 - よろしく : Nice to meet you, please treat me well!

What kind of Japanese wordplay do you know? Little things make studying Japanese interesting and more fun, don’t you think?

Right in the eye!

Posted on January 28, 2015 | genkijacs

Another busy week at Genki Japanese and Culture School, and when it gets busy, we get wacky! So let us share some of the wacky Japanese wordplay we know.

目の中に入れても痛くないほどかわいい! ("め の なか に いれても いたくない ほど かわいい" - me no naka ni iretemo itakunai hodo kawaii - (lit.) "it's so cute, it wouldn't hurt even if I put it in my eye")

The above phrase...ouch. No kidding that putting objects directly in your eye would hurt. But what if that character, baby or animal you saw at the zoo was so cute...that you would be left speechless and put them in your eye to absorb all the cuteness? (That's something normal people do, right? Right?)

Supposedly, this expression can be matched with the phrase in English “Oh! It is so cute I could explode!” But with Japanese people, expressions would not be complete without a referral to the eyes. Personally, the eye is such a sensitive area – we think we would rather implode than being stuck in the eye with something like a baby. But when affections are all but won over, you have to wonder.

So instead of just saying かわいい ("kawaii!")! Perhaps next time you could say 目の中に入れても痛くないほどかわいい! Give it a try!

2014 流行語

Posted on November 26, 2014 | genkijacs

The nominations for 2014's 流行語 are in!

Here are a few of the phrases that are nominated for the top 流行語 of 2014, according to Yahoo! News Japan:


Check out the complete list for more!

Interesting Japanese: 午後夢中

Posted on April 29, 2014 | genkijacs

Everyone knows the feeling: you've just had lunch, and you're trying to get back into work/studying but you're just...so...tired...

Trust Japanese to have a word for that! That word is 午後夢中 (ごごむちゅう - "gogo muchuu"), lit. "to be in a trance/daze in the afternoon".
To be so tired in those first few hours post-lunch, it feels like you're in a daze or dream...
We've definitely been there!

Interesting Japanese - 暗黙のルール

Posted on February 27, 2014 | genkijacs

In relation to our previous post about the so-called "rules" of Valentine's Day/White Day, an interesting term came up when we did some research on the topic: "暗黙のルール" (あんもくのルール - "anmoku no ru-ru").

Many of you have probably heard of 暗黙の了解 (あんもくのりょうかい - "anmoku no ryoukai"), the unspoken/implicit agreements that allow fan-artists in the manga industry to create doujinshi and other fan works. This term applies to a lot of social interactions as well - for example, when you can't (or don't want to!) go to a party, you respond "ちょっと・・・" to the invitation, and it is implicitly understood that you're declining, even though you never directly said "no".

Along the same vein, 暗黙のルール are certain social "rules" that everyone somehow knows about, but no one actually ever teaches. These kind of "implicit rules" can be things that are considered so obvious there is no need to speak about them (like the fact that you're not supposed to blow your nose in public, or eat while walking on the sidewalk).

So with Valentine's Day/White Day, the "rules" are considered obvious, so no explanation is added along any of the candies/gifts on display at the shops.

Every culture and society has these kinds of rules, and they differ from country to country, but Japan does seem to have a lot of them! Can you think of any other interesting 暗黙のルール? Let us know via Twitter or Facebook!

Interesting Japanese - www

Posted on January 07, 2014 | genkijacs

If you exchange a lot of texts with Japanese people, you'll have noticed they tend to use "www" a lot in their conversations. "w" is Japanese language text-speak for "lol" (the "w" is short for 笑い - "warai" - to laugh), and "www" is called "草" (くさ - kusa) in Japanese . Generally, the more "w"'s there are, the funnier something is. One of the kanji used to write kusa is 艸 - which texters will often use in emoticons, since it looks like a pair of hands raised to cover someone's mouth as though laughing: (*´艸`*)

流行語 2013

Posted on December 27, 2013 | genkijacs

As 2013 winds to a close, we thought it would be fun to review some of the interesting phrases that were popular in Japan during the year. 流行語 (りゅうこうご - "ryuukougo": buzzword; popular phrase) are catchphrases and words made famous by TV ads, dramas and variety programs, which you will often see being used (or spoofed!) by other ads or shows.

Here are the top 5 ryuukougo for 2013:

5) アベノミクス
"Abenomics" is what the economic and monetary policies of Shinzo Abe, during his terms as prime minister of Japan, are being hailed as.

4) 倍返し (ばいがえし)
Made popular by the TBS drama "Hanzawa Naoki", this catch phrase has a similar meaning to the English phrase "you reap what you sow", but with more violence. In the show, Hanzawa vows to pay back the harm done by his enemies twice as badly.

3) じぇじぇじぇ
Made popular by the drama "Amachan", this term means "what?" in the Iwate dialect. It also serves as the base for a wordplay used in the name of the talent agency created by the lead character - "3j". Arguably also the only 流行語 that comes with its own emoticon... ( ‘ jjj ’ ) !!

2) お・も・て・な・し
This word has become the unofficial catchphrase of the Tokyo Olymics 2020. After being used in the presentation speech by Crystal Takigawa for the Olympics, it has since been popularised internationally to describe the unique hospitality of Japan and its people.

1) 今でしょ!(いまでしょ)
This term was first used by popular high school teacher Osamu Hayashi, who always used this phrase at the end of his lectures: "いつやるか?今でしょ!". The use of this phrase skyrocketed after it appeared in one of Toshin High School's popular TV commercials. Literally translated, it means "When are you going to do it? Now!", but on its own, 今でしょ has taken a meaning similar to "now's the right/only time [to do something]". You often hear it in commercials, in the context of "When are you going to buy this car?" "今でしょ!"


Interesting Japanese - 寝刻

Posted on December 17, 2013 | genkijacs

For those Japanese language students who just aren't morning people, and can never quite seem to make that 7AM wake-up to make it to morning classes on time, this is a word just for you. 寝刻 (ねこく - "nekoku") , combines the words 寝坊 (ねぼう - "nebou", to oversleep) and 遅刻 (ちこく - "chikoku", to be late), to make a new word meaning "to arrive late because you overslept".

Interesting Japanese - だてメガネ / だてマスク

Posted on December 03, 2013 | genkijacs

A trend most often associated with hipster fashion, we all know those guys and girls who walk around wearing glasses that don't have lenses. What the use is of wearing only the frames, we'll never know - we suppose it must be a fashion thing, but considering that there are many people suffering the pain of contact lenses just to get away from what glasses look like, it does seem a bit odd. To each their own, though!

Here in Japan, the trend of wearing glasses even though you don't really need them, or wearing glasses that don't have a particular use, is called だてメガネ.

There's a similar word for wearing a disposable mask (those white masks that cover the nose and mouth), when you're not really sick - だてマスク. This trend has recently gained popularity especially among the famous - musicians and actors who don't want to be recognised on the street will wear the masks and add sunglasses on top of that well, for double だて effect!


*image found on Google, (c) its original owner

Interesting Japanese - シャカ男

Posted on November 22, 2013 | genkijacs

シャカ男 ("shaka-o") is an interesting combination of the words "シャカシャカ" (onomatopoeia for the canned, muffled sound of synthesized drumbeats heard through earphones) and 男 (おとこ) - man.

Basically, シャカ男 is that guy sitting next to you on the train who has his music turned up so loud you can hear "dog goes woof, cat goes meow" right through his ear/headphones (even though you really don't want to). We all know the type - they have their tunes turned up so loud you can tell their taste in music just by being in their general area. How they go through life with their eardrums intact is a mystery - but to each their own, we guess!